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Coronavirus Crisis

Friday’s Headlines: Subway Shutdown Spin Edition

12:38 AM EDT on May 1, 2020

Scrub-a-dub-dub: Transit workers sanitize a New York City subway station. Photo: Patrick Cashin/MTA

There was only one REALLY. BIG. STORY. yesterday: In a historic move, Gov. Cuomo (or, as Streetsblog calls him, “Big Dog Excelsior Car Guy”) ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to shut down the entire subway system for disinfection from 1 to 5 a.m. every day until the coronavirus pandemic ends (whenever that is). (NY Times, NY Post, NYDN, WSJ, and Streetsblog, among others, covered.)

This, a mere day after the MTA had insisted to reporters that it would not shut any stations after Mayor de Blasio called to close 10 terminals each night in order to clear the homeless.

Both Politico’s Dana Rubinstein and The Post’s David Meyer called out the MTA’s volte-face on Twitter, asking, in effect, “Um, didn’t you say yesterday that a shutdown wasn’t going to happen?”

MTA spokesman Ken Lovett spun faster than a train wheel in a memorable response. “The mayor was looking to close the subway overnight to deal with the homeless issue, something we asserted wasn’t necessary,” he explained on Twitter. “This is all about a more aggressive disinfecting program for essential workers.” 

Oh, so, “This isn’t a homeless thing, which the mayor wanted, this is a cleaning thing, which is what the governor wanted"? 

Details remain sparse, but the 11,000 essential workers who are riding the trains during those hours will apparently get ground transportation in the form of shuttle buses or ride-share for the duration, the MTA says, although some are already grumbling about their commutes being thrown off track (The City). And the hundreds of homeless transit riders who so vex the mayor and the governor will be pushed out to who knows where (Streetsblog).

Transit advocates, of course, worried that the service cuts might become permanent or that the governor might raid tax money that's supposed to fund the MTA (NY Post, Streetsblog).

There was some other news yesterday, too: 

    • "Will commuters ever go back to commuter trains?" asks David Zipper in CityLab
    • Great "get" for City & State: The city coughed up a list of at least 59 de Blasio administration officials who get around in private, city-chauffeured cars.
    • The city has furloughed thousands of city school-bus drivers because of the coronavirus (NYDN). 
    • Two-hundred New York-area Transportation Security Administration workers have tested positive for coronavirus, with the largest number, 105, at Kennedy Airport (NYP).
    • SEE IT: Gothamist obtained video of cops chasing a hearse at yet another crowded, chaotic Hasidic funeral — this one in Borough Park.
    • Speaking of hearses, city funeral homes don’t have enough of them to deal with all the coronavirus dead, so they’re using moving trucks for carrying bodies (The City).
    • The French offer health care and bike repairs. What else you need? How civilized! (NYDN).
    • The Central Park 79th Street Transverse will be closed for eight nights this month for resurfacing. Will DOT do the full safety improvements mandated in the Vision Zero Design Standards law? (Via Twitter).
    • And finally, a big pro-car lobby slammed Mayor de Blasio for apparently caving to “Big Bike” in creating a plan to keep residents safe — from disease AND cars — during the global pandemic. It wouldn’t bother us so much — hey, even car lobbyists are entitled to their opinion! — but the National Motorists Association is the same for-profit lobbying outfit that Cliff Levy’s New York Times Metro Section reporters keep referring to as a "grassroots” organization. Shame! (National Motorists Association via Twitter)

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